Most Pastors I know (including myself) want to believe that by way of identity they are leading a community of faith to change the world through the expansion of the Kingdom of God. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? It is (or at least it can be)! It’s the stuff of superheroes – battling spiritual principalities, rescuing those who have been taken captive to sin and suffering, standing up for truth (and grace)!!! I practically walk around with a music/movie soundtrack playing in the back of my head – you know…those anthemic intense superhero ones. ”I’m Pastor-Man!!!” *looks out the window to see if I can see my Pastor-man signal in the sky*
What most pastors don’t want to be is a chaplain to society. That is a totally different identity. It doesn’t have anthemic intense superhero music set in the background. It is more like musak in an elevator. Boring. Ignored. Seemingly unnecessary. And at times – obnoxious (really…you’re going to set “Everybody Rules the World” by Tears for Fear to Musak!!!!?)
Did you know that cruise ships have a chaplain? They do. And they get to enjoy a week-long cruise for free as long as they hold an interdenominational service on Sunday morning and are available should they be needed (guess how many people attend this service on a cruise ship). Do you know when chaplains on cruise ships are needed? Never. I’m going to suggest that every employee on a cruise ship, and I don’t care if you are the lowest rung of the maintenance crew, the kitchen staff, or the housekeeping – is more important than a chaplain on a cruise ship. You may be tempted to think to yourself, yea, but what if the ship is sinking…I bet you would want a chaplain then. The answer: NOPE. No one in the midst of a sinking ship thinks to themselves, “I wish I had a chaplain.” What they want is a life boat or someone skilled enough to plug that hole in the side of the ship. The only time a chaplain comes in handy is at the very end, when all hope is lost, we know we are about to drown…we’ve totally given up…now – someone find a chaplain to say something or pray something because we are about to meet God.
Pastors, if they aren’t careful, can very quickly be relegated by society to chaplaincy. It happens all the time. The obligatory prayer before the city council meetings, the invocation at the start of the Little League game, a blessing at some civic dedication ceremony (which by the way…these aren’t bad things…and I’ve done some of them), but ultimately it is a very different function than “Pastor-Man” (I just puffed my chest out as I said that…I’m not sure even when puffed it extends past my belly…dang it!) a leader of God’s people called to change the world.